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tv   Nightline  ABC  December 3, 2014 12:37am-1:08am PST

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♪ this is "nightline." >> tonight, suspect justice? >> i'm asking you, sir, why should i? >> our investigation into a state supreme court justice and a high-flying attorney who made millions in her court. should she have revealed her husband's million dollar connections? plus, little girl, big gun. it may be purple, but this is no toy. she's a national competitor who can fire off an ar-15 with the best of them. but is this child's play really safe? and, the beauty of ugly sweaters. getting into this seasonal spirit like the "modern family" crew. >> it's my christmas sweater. >> it's the most wonderful time of the year for retailers, now raking it in by going uglier than ever.
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but first -- the "nightline" five. >> at jcpenney's friends and family sale, get an extra 25% off with coupon. plus, find hundreds of doorbusters. like sweat earls for the family. men's flannel. boots for her. and fashion silver jewelry. jc pen nooe. when it fits, you feel it. if you suffer from constipation, you'll likely also suffer from gas. introducing new dulcogas. which starts working to eliminate gas bubbles in minutes. nothing releaves gas faster. >> number one in just 60
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good evening. in america, justice is supposed to be blind. impartial and fair. but the case we're going to show you tonight raises questions about influence and america's courts. you're about to enter a world of
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big money and private jets in one of the country's poorest states, and one judge that doesn't want to talk about any of it. here's abc's brian ross, for our series, "nightline investigates." >> reporter: this is a story about powerful corporate interests. wealthy lawyers with private jets. and you're getting rich. >> we are making money. yes. >> reporter: and what we discovered about one of the country's top judges. >> i'm justice robin davis. >> reporter: something justice davis had never disclosed. >> and i'm asking you, sir, why should i? >> reporter: and it all takes place in a state whose supreme court has become for some a symbol of justice gone wrong. west virginia. >> well, the west virginia supreme court is a circus masquerading as a court. >> reporter: the story begins with a lawsuit against the manor care nursing home in west virginia over the death of an elderly woman. >> she came out of the facility
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with multiple bruises, wounds, bed bound, almost in a comatose state. >> reporter: michael fuller has made millions of dollars as a lawyer, suing nursing homes that are part of big national chains like manor care. >> bed sores, bruises, broken bones. >> reporter: he uses television ads like this one to recruit his clients. is that a kind of ambulance chasing, to do that? >> no, it's a form of educating the public. we have a talent with these cases. we do. we've been doing it for years and years. >> reporter: fuller is based in hattiesburg, mississippi. but he and his associates fly in and out of west virginia on a regular basis in his private jet. and in 2011, fuller won his biggest case yet against the manor care home. a record $91.5 million verdict in a state that puts a half million dollar came on most medical mall practice lawsuits.
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>> this woman died because people wouldn't pour her a glass of water and help her drink it. >> reporter: even so, $90 million plus? >> that's what the jury decided. >> reporter: but both sides knew the huge verdict meant it was certain the case would end up in front of the five-member west virginia supreme court. >> west virginia is my home, as it always will be. >> reporter: within months, the cheech justice of the court, robin davis, began to run for re-election. and fuller became a major fund-raiser for her campaign. how much did you raise for chief justice davis? >> i don't know. i don't know. i mean, there's a limit as to what individuals can donate. i think we maxed out at that limit. i think the limit's $1,000. >> reporter: but he helped to raise a lot more than that. according to state campaign records, justice davis received more than $37,000 from people with ties to fuller.
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many of them residents of fuller's hometown of plant city, florida, who, despite their modest homes, gave $1,000 each for a judicial election in another state more than 700 miles away. fuller acknowledged he encouraged his friends to contribute, including his pilot. >> absolutely, yes. >> reporter: you don't see a problem with that, when you have such an important case pending before her? >> no. >> reporter: but it turns out fuller also had a private business relationship with the judge's husband, scott seigle, seen with his wife here in this campaign ad. and what is your relationship with him? >> we've talked. i've helped one of his associates with some cases. and that's about it. >> reporter: that's all? >> we don't do any other work together. >> reporter: what fuller left out was the hardly minor detail discovered by abc news that he bought his private jet from the chief justice's husband. the price? more than $1 million.
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did you buy an airplane from him? >> we did. >> reporter: why did you buy an airplane from him, of all people? >> it was a deal that we found and we thought was a good deal on a plane. >> reporter: did it raise an appearance of a conflict? >> i don't think so. >> reporter: justice davis never disclosed the million dollar plus jet sale when fuller later appeared before her. >> it's a huge problem. the lack of disclosure here is a pattern in west virginia. >> reporter: first coming to national attention six years ago, in another multimillion dollar case. this one, involving the tough-talking ining coal compa don blankenship. >> you're going to start -- >> how are you doing? abc news. sir -- don't touch my camera. >> reporter: blankenship raised more than $3 million to elect one justice. and was caught meeting with another justice, the then chief justice, on the french riviera.
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the u.s. supreme court castigated the west virginia court in a land mamark ruling, saying, there was here a serious, objective risk of actual bias. >> and it has developed a reputation as being a court where impart y'allty is highly questioned. >> and now james sample, who worked on the case on the side opposite of blankenship, says the million dollar private jet transaction should have been disclosed when fuller's case reached the court. >> absolutely, no question. it's proper to disclose and it similar prop improper not to disclose. >> reporter: but getting justice davis to respond was no easy matter. she dodged our cameras for two days until she finally emerged from chambers to say there was no reason to disclose the airplane sale or to recuse herself. >> let many be abundantly clear. the plane is owned by my husband. it was sold through a broker, an
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airplane broker and i understand that abc has spoken to my husband and to the broker. other than that, i have nothing else to say. have a great day. >> do you think you should have disclosed the relationship, judge? >> why? why? >> i'm just asking whether you feel it should have been -- >> and i'm asking you, sir, why should it? >> might it be reasonable to question her impartial y'allty here? if the answer is yes, it's a slam dunk and it calls for reaccusal. >> reporter: not every legal expert agrees. and in the end, justice davis wrote the decision herself, deciding the half million dollar cap did not apply and awarding fuller's clients $42 million. the cut for the lawyers? $17 million. >> business relationship with the lawyer before -- >> i have no business
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relationship with him then nor now. have a great day. >> reporter: for "nightline," brian ross, abc news, charleston, west virginia. coming up next here on "nightline," what's such a little girl doing with such a big gun? the controversy yial new trend tonight. and later on "nightline," the big money business of ugly holiday sweaters. [ male announcer ] take zzzquil and sleep like... the kids went to nana's house... for the whole weekend! [ snoring ] [ male announcer ] zzzquil, the non habit forming sleep aid that helps you sleep easily and wake refreshed. because sleep is a beautiful thing.
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some 10-year-old girls like to play with barbies. others, apparently, prefer berettas. you're about to meet the poster
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child for the pink gun pink ammo set, as america's red hot gun industry sets its sights on a new target market. females. sometimes very, very young females. here's abc's reena ninan. >> reporter: 10-year-old cheyenne roberts loves pink and purple. pink and purple gun us, ths, th. yes, he wie yes, she wields an ar-15 like a pro. over 20 gun sponsors give her ammunition and semiautomatic wells to compete with nationally. what kind of gun is this? >> a beretta 1301. >> reporter: the gun is actually bigger than you. >> a little bit. >> reporter: and this holiday season, it seems that guns are on a lot of santa lists. this year's black friday shopping frenzy led to one of the highest gun sales in
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recorded history. with more than 175,000 background checks, according to the fbi. nearly three times the daily average. and the newest customer profile might surprise you. women and young girls. a trend that the industry is happily catering to with feminine touches. it makes sense, consideri ining women participation in shooting sports has surged over the last decade. indeed, this is no longer just a man's game. or an adult's game, for that matter. for so long, people thought guns are more of a boy's thing. not really for girls. >> girls can do whatever boys can do. >> reporter: cheyenne started shooting when she was just 5 years old. now, she's one of the shooting world's youngest rising female stars. with her own facebook fan page and youtube channel. her biggest fan and supporter is, of course, her father, dan. >> is that a brand new 13 and one? >> yeah, yeah. >> happy? >> yeah. >> reporter: when did you
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realize that she had talent? >> probably when she was 6 1/2, 7 years old. when they start calling their shots and they tell you where it's going to hit, that's usually a pretty good sign they know what they're doing. >> reporter: cheyenne enjoys all the normal skid stuff, too. but by far, her favorite pastime is this. it seems like a lot for a little girl to handle. >> this is my .9 millimeter. it does have a little bit of recoil, so, it does come up a little bit. >> jimmy: all . >> reporter: this all makes me very nervous. is it okay that i feel a little anxious about this? >> a little bit. i mean, yes, it is scary when you're going into guns that are very powerful. >> reporter: yeah. >> you learn how to handle them right and not hurt yourself, it's not scary. >> reporter: roberts says his daughter's safety is his first priority. >> you teach them early that it can be a very dangerous thing. empower them to know what to do
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and what not to do and you cut down these accidents trasicily. >> we're on our way to georgia right now for my big match. >> reporter: we followed her to the lady three-gun challenge in georgia. the first national women's competition of its kind. 2 0 00 william shooteomen shoot from around the country to participate in the event. cheyenne is the youngest, but not the only girl there. tom stewart and his 12-year-old daughter maddie drove all the way from wisconsin. >> i can't go play soccer. this is one of the few that we can actually compete together and against each other. >> reporter: this is one of the top women shooters in the country. like cheyenne, she started competing at just 8 years old.
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and she says that's not too young at all. >> i don't think you can establish an age on it. because no child is the same maturity. >> reporter: but some gun safety advocates think there should be more age restrictions. when we met up with cheyenne the night before her final match, she showed us her bruises. >> shotgun gave me a huge bruise starting here and ends here. >> they're not adults. they don't have the physical strength, necessarily the coordination to handle very, very powerful weapons. >> reporter: kids and guns are a bad, potentially dangerous mix. she blames the industry for the trend towards younger shooters. >> they're trying to market them to children. they're trying to market them to women and they're doing this for a very simple reason. profit. >> reporter: accidents do happen, even with proper training. in 2008, an 8-year-old boy fires an uzi and it recoiled an killed him. just four months ago, a shooting instructor in arizona was killed
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when a 9-year-old girl seen here shot a fully automatic machine gun under close supervision. there is no federal law prohibiting children from ranges. do you think, though, there should be any red lines? >> the arizona situation was a tragedy, but that had nothing to do with the child. that was the instructor. he made significant safety errors. what did you think about that story? >> it's very devastating. i wouldn't give up my sport just because she did that. if she had the right training and if he was standing in the right position, that wouldn't have happened. >> reporter: there is no minimum age for possession of a long gun, which is a rifle or shotgun. 20 states and the district of columbia set their own laws, ranging from 14 in montana to 21 in illinois. in the remaining 21 states, it is legal for a child to possess a long gun. do you think the guns were too big, too powerful for you? >> no. >> reporter: why do you feel so
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confident about that? >> if you lean into it, it's not going to have that much recoil. >> reporter:bruised up. >> yes. >> reporter: how do you feel about fully automatic weapons? >> i would like to try one. >> reporter: you would? >> yes. >> reporter: cheyenne has been advocating for fewer gun restrictions. >> guns don't do anything by themselves. >> reporter: and has testified before the new jersey state legislature, vocalizing her stance. i think parents say this about soccer games or football or dance competitions. >> it's the same thing. >> reporter: but we're talking about guns. >> so what? >> reporter: i don't think kids dying with a soccer ball -- >> we were at a match, there were 650 firearms present and there wasn't a paper cut. >> reporter: cheyenne didn't win the competition in the end, but she said she enjoyed being with the pros and is looking forward to her next match. >> kids and guns don't always mean bad things and i'm trying to reinforce that kids can shoot if they get caught the right
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way. >> reporter: for "nightline," i'm reena ninan in new jersey. coming up here next on "nightline," hate the ugly christmas sweater? bridget jones did, too, but they are now flying off the shelves. why retailers are going all-in on the seasonal trend this year. [ shutter clicks ] hi there! [ laughs ] -i'm flo! -i know! i'm going to get you your rental car. this is so ridiculous. we're going to manage your entire repair process from paperwork to pickup, okay, little tiny baby? your car is ready, and your repairs are guaranteed for as long as you own it. the progressive service center -- a real place, where we really manage your claim from start to finish. really. ♪ easy as easy can be bye!
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♪ ♪
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you've been part of this family for as long as i can remember. and you just mean so much to all of us. the holidays wouldn't be the same without your crescent rolls. we got you a little something. we got you jeans. it's about time. pipin' hot pillsbury crescent rolls. make your holidays pop! [ female announcer ] holiday cookies are a big job. everything has to be just right. perfection is in the details. ♪ pillsbury cookie dough. make the holidays pop!
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♪ that's how it goes whenever it snows. ♪ ♪ the world is your snowball just for a song. ♪ ♪ get out and move it along. ♪ finally tonight, turns out you can make a pretty penny on ugly clothing. i'm not talking about the weird fashion forward gear they make the models wear on the runways. i'm talking about ugly, cheesy,
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corny holiday sweaters. they are big business now, apparently, and here's abc's ryan owens. >> all right. one, two, three, get ugly. >> reporter: from jingle bells to pom poms. there is no garnish too garish for an ugly christmas sweater. >> sold! >> it's my christmas sweater. >> reporter: on "modern family" and bridget jones' bow. the new ugly sweater is uglier than ever before. but if you think this extreme seasonal wear is just for laughs, think again. now, more little guys expect to make big profits. jeremy turner considers himself an expert in kitschy christmas couture. he opened this dallas popup store and has a jingle on youtube. turner says he's on track to sell out of merchandise this season. nearly 10,000 sweaters. >> if it has anything that's 3d,
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like, my shirt has a beard. >> reporter: the more crap hanging off it, the better. >> yeah. >> reporter: his customers can't get enough. >> i kind of like this one. you have big santa on the front. >> reporter: oh. >> and a furry nice beard, too. >> reporter: but this year, turner has plenty of competition. >> they say it's ugly, i say, thank you. that's what i intended. >> reporter: meet the queen of ugly sweaters. she started this popup shop in l.a. after demand skyrocketed on her website, shopuglysweaters.com. >> looking at this, you might think, totally, i'm going to wear this. going to be -- this is not enough. >> reporter: want to make your own? she says, don't forget to stimulate the seasonal senses. flip on the lights, crank up the sound and spice it up with some sparkle. >> it will glow in a very specific area. >> reporter: i'm ryan owens for "nightline" in dallas. >> yet another trend i will be skipping entirely. thanks for watching "nightline." as always, tune into "gma" first
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thing in the morning. and we are, of course, online 24/7 at abcnews.com. thanks again for watching and good night. ring ring!... progresso! it's ok that your soup tastes like my homemade. it's our slow simmered vegetables and tender white meat chicken. apology accepted. i'm watching you soup people. make it progresso or make it yourself listen to this sweet symphony of flavor. beautiful! gorgeous! here comes the fruitful crescendo! incredible.
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